West Valley High School senior Sarah Coss is one of the first girls in the nation to become an Eagle Scout and the first here in Fairbanks with the Midnight Sun Council.
“I always wanted to be an Eagle Scout, even when I was a little kid,” she said. “To finally say, ‘I’m an Eagle Scout?’ It’s crazy. I don’t think it has really sunk in yet. I’ve been working toward this for two years.”
The 18-year-old joined Midnight Sun Council/Boy Scouts of America as soon as it was possible. In February 2019, Scouts BSA, the national program for youth in fifth grade through high school, started welcoming girls into the organization.
“I joined two years ago in February when they first allowed girls to join,” she said.
Coss was familiar with the program. Both her brothers Jonathan and David are boy scouts. Jonathan also recently became an Eagle Scout and David is working toward that goal.
Before that, she spent many years in girl scouts, but it never quite clicked for her. Something was missing.
“The outdoor adventures mainly,” she said. “I tried a couple different troops. There was a lot of car camping and motor home camping. We didn’t really go hiking or backpacking or on water adventures. None of that.”
When she joined Boy Scouts of America, she was able to experience those adventures. But the real memories, Coss said, are the lessons she learned about leadership.
“I think it’s less the actual achievement and completion and more about what I had to do to get it,” she said, of becoming an Eagle Scout. “There’s a lot of planning and actual projects, leadership skills I had to work on.”
Coss expects she’ll use those skills in school and at future jobs.
The one thing she learned that surprised her?
“I learned how to work with adults,” she said. “That sounds kind of like a strange skill, but working with adults is so much different than working with youth. It feels weird to ask them to do things or to tell them how to do things.
“I was lucky all the adults I worked with were super supportive and patient.”
Every Eagle Scout needs to complete a project. Coss created three permanent orienteering courses at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
“There’s a beginner course and then two harder courses,” she said. “It’s just like a treasure hunt, I guess.”
She estimated a newcomer could complete the beginner course is about an hour.
“I only got the project approved by the Boy Scout Council in August or September, so I only had a month to actually finish it. There’s about 17 different markers in total.”
To earn an orienteering badge, Coss had to learn about orienteering. She ended up taking orienteering classes outside Alaska while her family was on a vacation road trip. Learning those skills made her think other people might enjoy an orienteering course close to home.
Maps of the course will be available on the University of Alaska Fairbanks website, she added. The university supported the project wholeheartedly, she said.
Now that she has completed her goal of becoming an Eagle Scout, she is looking to the future.
“I’m going to want to be an adult leader in scouts now,” she said.
After graduating high school, she plans to attend the University of Idaho and study biochemistry or some other medical science field.
“Eagle Scout is the program’s highest rank, which only about 6% of scouts achieve on average,” according to Stephen Smith, local scout executive/CEO. “To earn it, an individual has to take on leadership roles within their troop and their community; earn a minimum of 21 merit badges that cover a broad range of topics including first aid and safety, civics, business and the environment; and they must research, organize and complete a large community service project.”
The permanent orienteering courses she created “will be enjoyed by members of the Fairbanks community for years to come,” Smith said.
Coss is now a member of the Inaugural Class of female Eagle Scouts nationwide.
For more information on the Midnight Sun Council, which include more than 8,000 youth in the Interior and North Slope, see www.midnightsunbsa.org.
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.